Molly Gale has always been interested in science, but it wasn’t until college that she considered becoming a research scientist. As a Biology major at the University of Arizona, Molly took a microbiology class. In this class, she loved learning about the importance of the microscopic world in and around us. After college, Molly did an internship in a cancer research lab where she decided to continue studying cancer biology in graduate school.
Cancer biology is very complex. There are numerous locations, types, and causes of cancer. Abnormal cell division is one hallmark of cancer and can be caused when the proteins involved in controlling cell division are abnormally expressed. One of these proteins is called lysine demethylase 5A (KDM5A) which Molly started studying in graduate school in Dr. Qin Yan’s laboratory at Yale University. KDM5A is highly expressed in several types of cancer and is involved in cancer progression. Normally, KDM5A modifies histones, the proteins DNA is wrapped around to compact it within the cell nucleus. When histones get modified by KDM5A, it changes how DNA gets compacted and which genes get turned on or off. However, in some types of cancer, abnormally high levels of KDM5A allows genes involved in cancer progression to be turned on or off when they aren’t supposed to be. Although we know that KDM5A is involved in cancer progression, there aren’t many drugs available that can specifically block it. In work recently published in Oncotarget, Molly and her lab mates wanted to identify new drugs that would be able to block KDM5A in cancer cells. They performed a big experimental screen of these drugs to identify which ones blocked KDM5A action the best. They identified a molecule called YUKA1 that was able to get into cancer cells and specifically inhibit KDM5A activity. This new molecular stopped the growth of certain cancer cells and, interestingly, also blocked the appearance of cancer cells that are resistant to anti-cancer treatments.
Molly’s research was the first to perform a screen to identify molecules like YUKA1 that can be used to study KDM5A’s role in cancer development. Molly says that is what she enjoys most about science- being able to discover and learn things that haven’t been done or known before! If you are interested in becoming a research scientist and discovering new things, Molly recommends to get as much experience as you can by interacting with scientists or attending science functions like touring a lab, going to talks, or attending outreach events like Science Café! If you have any questions for Molly about her research, her path to becoming a scientist, or any other questions about becoming a scientist please post in the comments below or send us an email! Also follow Yale Open Labs on Facebook and Twitter for up-to-date science news or information on events near you!